Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal State Park is a linear park that’s more than 70 miles long and is central New Jersey's most popular recreational corridor.
When it opened in 1834, the Delaware and Raritan Canal provided a direct transportation link between the cities of Philadelphia and New York City. This new transportation corridor was a waterway connection that flowed through the heart of central New Jersey. What was once a thoroughfare for mule-powered canal boats, steam-powered vessels and pleasure boats of all kinds, is today a linear state park that offers a serene and surprising respite from the commotion of nearby highways and surrounding suburban communities. With more than 70 miles of flat, continuous path available for use, the D&R Canal State Park is a haven for cyclists, runners, hikers, nature and history lovers of all kinds.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, State Park Service owns and manages the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal and towpath as a state park. The D&R Canal Commission, legislated in 1974, assists with the development of the park and regulates land use in the park's 400-square-mile watershed. The New Jersey Water Supply Authority operates and maintains the water transmission complex of the canal as a water supply resource, pumping out about 75 million gallons of water a day.
With its wood bridges, lock and bridge tender houses, locks, cobblestone spillways, stone-arched culverts, and historic towpath, the canal is a tremendous attraction for history lovers. Much of the canal system remains intact today and is a reminder of the days when the delivery of freight depended upon a team of sturdy mules or steam-powered vessels. Nearly 36 miles of the main canal and 22 miles of the feeder canal still exist, with many historic structures still standing.
The feeder canal wanders through quaint New Jersey towns along the Delaware River such as Stockton, Lambertville and Titusville and flows past Washington Crossing State Park on its way further south into Trenton. The main canal passes through the heart of central New Jersey from Bordentown to Trenton and further north into Lawrenceville past the Port Mercer bridge tender house, along the outskirts of Princeton, then through the charming villages of Kingston, Griggstown, Blackwells Mills and East Millstone and eventually ending at Landing Lane in New Brunswick. Perhaps the best way to experience the historic canal is on the water; canoes and kayaks can be rented from private concessionaires in the spring through the early fall at Griggstown and Princeton.
The D&R Story
During the early nineteenth century, canals were built as transportation routes to link manufacturing centers and markets. The Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal was constructed across central New Jersey to provide an efficient route for transporting freight between Philadelphia and New York City. The two cities selected as the canal’s two terminuses were Bordentown on the Delaware River and New Brunswick on the Raritan River. Water is still supplied to the main canal via a 22-mile-long feeder canal that was dug adjacent to the Delaware River beginning at Bulls Island and continuing south into Trenton. Construction of the D&R Canal began in 1831.
Many skilled men became section contractors and builders while the arduous tasks of ditch digging, earth moving, and tree removal fell to scores of unskilled local men. This local workforce was supplemented in large numbers by migratory and immigrant laborers from Ireland. Originally the main canal was 44 miles long and the feeder canal was 22 miles long, 60 feet wide and 6 feet deep. The entire canal system was completed in June of 1834 at an estimated cost of $2,830,000. Initially, canal boats were pulled exclusively by mule teams but by 1843, steam-powered vessels were in use. These faster, modern boats plied the waters alongside the mainstay mule-powered boats into the early 20th century. To reduce damage to the banks of the canal and its towpath caused by these more powerful vessels, a speed limit of 4 miles per hour was enforced.
The D&R Feeder Canal
Originally designed as a water supply for the main canal, the feeder canal was navigated by vessels from the time of its completion. In 1847, changes were made to allow canal boats from Pennsylvania’s Delaware Division Canal access to the D&R feeder canal at Lambertville. This shortened the journey for boats transporting coal from Pennsylvania to New York City. In 1850, construction of a rail line began along the feeder canal when the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad began laying track on the waterway’s original towpath. Regular rail service opened alongside the D&R feeder canal by 1854.
Decline of the Canal
For nearly a century, the D&R Canal was one of America’s busiest navigation canals. Inevitably the speed and efficiency of railroads overtook the slower pace of canals. The D&R Canal’s last year of operating at a profit was 1892 but it remained open through the 1932 shipping season. After closing, the canal sat unused for several years. In 1936, ownership was turned over to the State of New Jersey. In the 1940s, work to repurpose the D&R Canal as a water supply began. From the 1930s to the 1970s, the D&R Canal transitioned from a working canal to a linear park. Due to a strong grassroots effort to preserve the waterway from encroachment, pollution and development, the canal and its remaining structures were entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. A year later, over 60 miles of the canal and a narrow strip of land on both banks were made an official state park. A portion of the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad corridor from Bulls Island to Frenchtown was added to the park in the 1980s. Click here for a more detailed history of the D&R Canal.
Abbott Marshlands, Burlington and Mercer Counties
Covering more than 3,000 acres of upland forests, tidal waterways and wetlands, Abbott Marshlands is an oasis of natural beauty. The beginning of the D&R Canal at Lock 1 in Bordentown can be found near the convergence of Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River. What was once a bustling hub of commerce at the start of the canal along the Delaware River and Crosswicks Creek is now a quiet place to explore stands of wild rice and a chorus of bird songs. A 3.5-mile-long trail is accessible from the 295 Scenic Overlook, the pedestrian bridge next to the NJ Light Rail in Bordentown City or a parking area located along Route 129 in Trenton. A network of trails within Abbott Marshlands are maintained by local government and nonprofit agencies. To learn more please visit: www.abbottmarshlands.org.
Blackwells Mills, Franklin Township, Somerset County
The historic bridge tender's house, wood bridge, and bridge tender station are reminders of the area's active transportation past. A lovely seasonal garden adjacent to the canal is cultivated and maintained here by the Blackwells Mills Canal House Association who also hold events throughout the year at the house. Picnic tables and grills with views of the river are located in the day use area. This historic site provides access to the canal, towpath and river. For more information visit: https://bmcha.weebly.com/.
Bulls Island Recreation Area, Hunterdon County
Bulls Island Recreation Area is part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. It is bounded by the Delaware River to the east and the canal’s feeder to the west. The main water intake for the feeder canal is located at the northern section of Bulls Island. This 80-acre forested island provides access to numerous recreation opportunities. The island includes a park office, large picnic area, playground, Roebling-designed pedestrian bridge crossing the Delaware River, boat launches into the canal and river and access to the 22-mile-long section of the canal’s towpath trail. The 42-acre natural area includes two unique forest habitats – the sycamore river birch and American elm-silver maple. The historic pedestrian bridge connects New Jersey to Pennsylvania and provides stunning views up and downstream of the middle Delaware River. Visitors can also explore the mature forests of the Bulls Island Natural Area along a 1-mile loop trail. For more information call 609-397-2949 and/or click here.
Delaware River Loop Trails, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties
Six bridges over the Delaware River at Frenchtown, Bulls Island, Stockton, Lambertville, Titusville and Trenton create multiple loop trails linking New Jersey’s Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park with Pennsylvania’s Delaware Canal State Park. Along these routes, there are numerous recreational opportunities as well as river towns with rich histories, eateries and shops. The loop trails offer beautiful scenic views and the natural and historic landscapes of the Delaware River.
Griggstown, Franklin Township, Somerset County
The wooden canal bridge, historic bridge tender's house and station, Longhouse/Muletender's Barracks, and the site of the Griggstown mill are located at the causeway and along the canal. The restored bridge tender’s house is now the headquarters for the Millstone Valley Scenic Byway and is opened weekends from spring through the early fall. Here park visitors will find information about the Scenic Byway and canal as well as see a restoration of the bridge tender’s 19th century kitchen and interpretive gardens. Canoes can be rented at a private canoe rental concession on the canal. Lock #9 - Griggstown Lock – and the historic lock house is less than a mile south on the towpath. Click for more history about Griggstown.
Lambertville, Hunterdon County
The historic, picturesque canal and river town of Lambertville is located along the waters of the D&R Canal and the Delaware River. The town has a storied history that stretches back to colonial settlement beginning in the early 1700s when it was known as Coryell’s Ferry. Today it is connected to New Hope, Pennsylvania by a walkable bridge and with its lovingly-restored 18th – 19th century homes and structures, it is a delight for history and architecture enthusiasts. Among the many repurposed historic buildings is the restored 19th-century train depot now the Lambertville Station – a popular waterside restaurant and inn. Visitors will find a diverse variety of historic bars, coffee houses, ice cream shops, restaurants, world-class spas and salons, antique stores, art studios, riverside hotels and cozy Victorian bed & breakfast inns. For more information about Lambertville visit: https://lambertvillehistoricalsociety.org
Mapleton Preserve, Middlesex County
This property was once the home “Princeton Nurseries”, a profitable tree nursery founded in the early 20th century by William Flemer, Sr. In its nearly 100 years of operation, Princeton Nurseries would grow to own 1500 acres of land in South Brunswick Township that included fields, original farm houses, offices, green houses, nursery outbuildings, barns and employee housing. Today, about 52 acres of the heart of its operations have been saved and are now known as “The Mapleton Preserve.” Its former administrative office now serves as the D&R Canal State Park’s Kingston office. Visitors can walk the former nursery roads and learn about the site through the several informative wayside exhibits located along the trails. A 1-mile self-guided “Nursery to Canal Loop Trail” provides an easy walk from the D&R Canal’s Kingston office along nursery trails to the canal, the Kingston bridge/lock tender’s house and towpath. For more information visit: https://fpnl.org.
Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Hunterdon County
Just north of Lambertville and alongside the Delaware River, sits the small river town of Stockton and the Prallsville Mill site. The historic 10-building mill complex is located along the D&R’s feeder canal and the former Bel-Del rail line. The site includes a grist mill, linseed oil mill, saw mill and granary, most dating back to the late 1700s. The buildings are considered a significant example of early American industrial architecture. The complex also includes one of the finest 18th century houses in the region – The Prall House – and is among New Jersey's most significant early dwellings. This wonderful stone structure is a late Georgian/early Federal residence that John Prall built for his family. The site is leased and operated by the Delaware River Mill Society, which sponsors concerts and other programs on site. For further information, please call 609-397-3586. The D&R Canal Commission office is located in the restored and repurposed wagon shed at the mill complex. For more information visit: www.prallsvillemills.org
Rockingham State Historic Site, Somerset County
This farm homestead served as the final wartime headquarters for General George Washington. Here he wrote his Farewell Orders to the Armies of the United States. Soon after, he received word that the Treaty of Paris had been signed thus ending the Revolutionary War. The house contains period furnishings, reproductions of Washington’s military equipment and a life-size figure of the general. An 18th-century-style kitchen garden is on site. Visitors to the D&R Canal State Park can access this state historic site from the former rail line trail adjacent to the main canal between Kingston and Rocky Hill in Somerset County. For tour schedules or more information call 609-683-7132 and/or visit: www.rockingham.net.
Six Mile Run, Franklin Township, Somerset County
In the late 1950s, it was determined that additional water supply resources were needed for the state of New Jersey. The area around the Six Mile Run creek was identified as a possible location for such a site. In a process that took place over several years in the 1960s, properties were acquired by the state for the purpose of creating an additional water resource in central New Jersey. To that end in 1970, the area was put under the jurisdiction of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water Resources with the intent to develop it as a reservoir site. However, by 1993, alternative and adequate water sources had been identified and the Six Mile Run Reservoir project was shelved. No longer immediately needed, the administration of the newly-acquired properties at Six Mile Run was transferred to the Division of Parks and Forestry. Trail systems through former farmlands were soon created.
Today, the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site provides an essential area to enjoy the outdoors with hiking, biking, horseback riding and hunting opportunities. The trail network provides visitors a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural history. The area was listed on the 1995 National Historic Register and is the largest agricultural district in New Jersey. Trail users can see the remains of 18th and 19th century farmhouses, Dutch-framed barns, windmills and silos that hint at the story of the early colonial settlers who inhabited the area in the 1700s while they enjoy preserved open vistas of undeveloped land in the heart of central New Jersey. For more information call 609-924-5705 and/or click for more history of Six Mile Run.
Trenton, Mercer County
Visitors can walk or bike along the historic route of the canal or follow the D&R Greenway (formerly the Belvidere and Delaware rail line) through the heart of Trenton. Along the canal route, visitors will pass three surviving bridge tender houses at Prospect, Calhoun and Hanover Streets. These buildings were the homes for canal company employees assigned to operate and maintain the swing bridges at these road crossings. The canal ceased operations in 1932 and by the 1950s all swing bridges were removed and replaced with the modern stationary bridges seen today. The Trenton Battle Monument, commemorating the crucial victory of the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776 is also located along this section of the D&R Canal trail. Park visitors are asked to use caution while traveling through the city by obeying traffic signals and using crosswalks where available.
Washington Crossing State Park, Mercer County
The D&R feeder canal passes through historic Washington Crossing State Park as it flows south paralleling the Delaware River through the quaint river town of Titusville. This landmark park was founded to commemorate and preserve the historic crossing of the Delaware River by General George Washington and his troops on Dec 25, 1776. D&R Canal State Park visitors are encouraged to explore this historic location and take a side trip to the Washington Crossing State Park Visitor Center and Museum to learn about America’s revolutionary conflict with an emphasis on the military campaign known as “The Ten Crucial Days.” Visitors can also stop at the Johnson Ferry house to view its 18th century themed gardens, enjoy guided tours and take part in living history programs. The park’s nature center offers year-round programming and displays representing the local wildlife and environment. Picnic areas, playgrounds, trails and group camping offer something for everyone. For more information call (609) 737-0623 or click here.
D&R Canal State Park’s multi-use trail of crushed and packed stone provides more than 70 continuous miles of wide, flat pathway along the historic route of the D&R Canal and former rail lines. Numerous access points make it ideal for a bike trip in central New Jersey. The park’s trail system was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1992 and is a part of the East Coast Greenway, the longest hiking and biking route in the country which connects Maine to Florida. Today, it is used by millions as a much-loved and needed recreation corridor in central New Jersey. Additionally, the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site is one of central New Jersey’s more popular recreational resource for off-road trail biking.
The historic towpath provides an excellent opportunity for cross-country skiing in the winter as do the open terrains of the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site and Mapleton Preserve.
D&R Canal State Park’s multi-use trail of crushed and packed stone provides more than 70 continuous miles of wide, flat pathway along the historic route of the D&R Canal and former rail lines. Numerous access points make it ideal for a day hike in central New Jersey. The towpath and multi-use trails are great for all ages and physical abilities. Both the main canal, which is 34 miles long, and the feeder canal at 31.5 mile long are ADA accessible. The park’s trail system was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1992 and is a part of the East Coast Greenway, the longest hiking and biking route which connects Maine to Florida. Today it is used by millions as a much-loved and needed recreation corridor in central New Jersey.
In addition to the canal's towpath trail, patrons will find trails at the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site, Kingston/Mapleton Preserve/Cook Natural Area, several in Hunterdon County’s Delaware Township, a 1-mile Natural Area Loop Trail at Bulls Island, the Abbot Marshlands and several others (see maps below).
Motorized vehicles and ATVs are not permitted on trails in the park.
D&R Canal State Park’s location along the federally-designated Lower Wild and Scenic Delaware River and the D&R Canal makes it an ideal location for boating. Canoes, kayaks, standup paddleboards (SUP) and nonmotorized boats are allowed along the entire length of the D&R Canal. This gently-flowing waterway is perfect for beginners or those looking to enjoy a leisurely paddle. The canal flows under many bridges and paddlers will have to portage their boats over the concrete locks along the canal.
Canal water vessel restrictions: Only electric motors, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are permitted. Contact private concessionaires in Griggstown and Princeton for rentals information. All NJ boating regulations apply.
Delaware River boating and paddling.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, to access the Delaware River, all boaters and paddlers must purchase a boat launch permit - available from the Bulls Island office. (Exception: Lambertville Boat Launch)
Required daily or annual permits can be purchased at the Bulls Island Recreation Area main office at 2185 Daniel Bray Highway, Stockton, NJ 08859. For further information, call 609-397-2949.
The D&R Canal State Park offers five boat launches into the Delaware River. Launches are located at:
Boat launches are available from sunrise to sunset year-round.
There are no motor restrictions on the Delaware River, but all the New Jersey boating regulations apply.
Delaware River Stream Gages and Stream Flow Information
The following is information on Delaware River flow and storage data, real-time stream gage data and high flood potential. This information is provided by the U.S. Geologic Survey and the National Office of the Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Water levels for the Delaware River are regularly updated on their websites.
This U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch site provides detailed information on the streamflow of waterways in New Jersey. Refer to the Reigelsville gaging station for water level information for the Delaware River along the D&R Canal State Park. A map of New Jersey will appear. Proceed to the western edge of New Jersey to locate the RIEGELSVILLE dot. This dot is approximately a third of the way down the western side of the state. Once the dot is “clicked,” additional information will appear at the bottom of the page identifying “low” (red) “below normal” (orange), “normal” (green), “above average” (blue) and “high” (black) water conditions.
The NOAA Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service for RIEGELSVILLE site provides a graph of the current and predicted water levels for the Delaware River in the vicinity of Frenchtown, Stockton and Lambertville, NJ. The real time water level is sampled approximately every two hours.
Fishing is permitted along the entire length of the D&R Canal and Delaware River. While trout are stocked at various locations in the canal during spring months, anglers will find warmwater fish year-round. The Delaware River provides habitat for many game species including migratory American shad and striped bass. All canal and river fishing is subject to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife regulations.
The New Jersey State Park Service supports the mission of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Both agencies endeavor to protect and manage the State's fish and wildlife to maximize their long-term biological, recreational and economic values for all New Jerseyans. Sportspersons must comply with all current NJ Fish and Wildlife regulations as noted in the current hunting digest.
For information about fishing and hunting, please refer to the NJ Fish and Wildlife website or call the main information number in Trenton at (609) 292-2965.
Hunting is one of the many activities offered at the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park. Designated hunting areas include:
Hunters are responsible for knowing the hunting regulations within the state park. Be sure to review maps, zone descriptions and timing restrictions prior to venturing to the site. The hunting areas may have trails open to the public during the hunting season so be aware of hikers, bikers, and horseback riders who may be utilizing the trail system.
Be advised that there is NO HUNTING PERMITTED ON SUNDAYS within lands managed by the NJ State Park Service.
IMPORTANT HUNTING SEASON RULES IN SIX MILE RUN:
NJ State Park issued permits are available for deer bowhunters to access over 2,000 acres of land within Six Mile Run Reservoir Site. There are also a limited number of firearm permits available for a limited area within the Six Mile Run Reservoir Site. Please carefully read the instructions below to apply for either a bow or firearm permit.
BE ADVISED: Hunters MUST APPLY FOR A PARK PERMIT to hunt anywhere within Six Mile Run. Download/Print the deer hunting map for Six Mile Run by clicking the link below:
SIX MILE RUN RESERVOIR SITE DEER HUNTING MAP - ZONE 14
2021/2022 CHANGES TO SIX MILE RUN RESERVOIR DEER MANAGEMENT PROGRAM:
Stands are prohibited from being placed directly on Six Mile Run Reservoir property lines or in the view-shed of residents residing directly adjacent to Six Mile Run Reservoir Site.
One stand/blind permitted per hunter;
Parking Permit only needs to be displayed in Hunter Only Lots (see a map for details);
Please review the map as permissible hunting areas have changed.
BOW SEASON: There will be NO LIMIT on the number of bow permits issued for Six Mile Run. Email, or mail, a completed legible application along with a copy of your current hunting license and government issued identification (ex driver’s license) to Stephanie.Fox@dep.nj.gov. or via US Postal Service to:
D&R Canal State Park
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Use the link below to download/print the bow season application:
BOW HUNTER APPLICANT AGREEMENT SHEET
FIREARM SEASON: A total of 15 permits will be issued for the 2021/2022 season by a RANDOM lottery. To be considered for the lottery please submit your name with your email and/or phone to Stephanie Fox (Stephanie.Fox@dep.nj.gov; 609-924-5705) by September 30, 2021. If your name is selected the park will notify you and provide you with a firearm application to be completed.
Please direct any questions to Stephanie Fox at Stephanie.Fox@dep.nj.gov or call the park office at (609) 924-5705.
Picnic table and grills are located at a few access points and day-use areas including at Blackwells Mills in Somerset County, the D&R Canal office located in Kingston and at the Bulls Island Recreation Area. Informal picnicking is allowed along the canal. Open fires are NOT permitted. Charcoal fires are restricted to the grills in the picnic areas.
Access for Persons with Disabilities
The towpath trail and recreational facilities at D&R Canal State Park are partially accessible to persons with disabilities. Please contact the park office at 609-924-5705 for further information regarding disability access needs. Text telephone users, please call the New Jersey Relay Service at 800-852-7899.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Recreational use of ATVs is not permitted on NJ State Park Service property. This includes state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. Thank you for your help in protecting New Jersey’s natural and historic resources. [N.J.A.C. 7:2-3.4(d)]
State law prohibits the smoking of tobacco and use of electronic smoking (vaping) devices in all state parks, forests, historic sites, recreation areas, golf courses and marinas. [N.J.P.L.2005, c.383 (C.26:3D-56)]
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. [ N.J.A.C. 7:2-2.6 ]
Keep Your Park Clean and Green
Protect plants and animals and care for your parks by taking your trash with you. Whatever you carry into the park, plan on carrying it out too. It’s like crowdsourcing trash management! Bring a bag or two for trash, recycling and cleaning up after your pet. There are no trash receptacles in this park. Thank you!
Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of the owner. Please clean up after your pets.
Use insect repellent, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into socks, stay on trails, check yourself when you get home, shower and wash clothes immediately.
Be Bear Aware
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Do not approach or attract bears by making food available. Feeding bears is dangerous and illegal. Never run from a bear! To report an aggressive bear, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) immediately. Please report any damage or nuisance behavior to the park office. Visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information on bear safety.
Bulls Island Recreation Area
Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park
Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission
Delaware Canal State Park
D&R Greenway Land Trust
D&R Canal Watch
Delaware River Scenic Byway Map
Millstone Valley Scenic Byway Map
New Jersey Water Supply Authority
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Park Hours Open daily 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Park Office 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Entrance Fee None